Importance of Labour Standards stressed at recent workshop

SKNIS Photo:Permanent Secretary- Ministry of Labour, Elvis Newton

Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 20, 2013 (SKNIS): Public and private sector officials and representatives from the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union, discussed a number of issues relating to the Importance of Labour Standards in the Caribbean, during a workshop held at Ocean Terrace Inn on Tuesday March 19, 2013.The workshop, themed “The Role of Labour Standards in Accessing International Markets and Supporting the Caribbean Single Market” was a one day event.

Joseph O’Flaherty, President of the Trades and Labour Union stated, “The collaboration between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Tripartite Committee for Labour within St. Kitts and Nevis has successfully resulted in the implementation of this workshop.” He further mentioned, “This workshop takes place against the backdrop of the global, economic and financial challenges that continues to impact our countries.”

In his welcome remarks, President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, David Lake expressed the gratitude of the Chamber to the ILO for this new thrust in bringing its training and educational expertise directly to the individual member countries of the Caribbean. Mr. Lake stressed that today’s exercise was designed to raise awareness of some 35 individuals within the Federation, of the linkages between labour standards, our relationship in the Economic Partnership Arrangement (EPA) with Europe and the focus on the Caribbean Single Market.

SKNIS Photo: Vice President – Caribbean Employers Confederation, Wayne Chen

Vice President of Caribbean Employers Confederation, Wayne Chen said he felt it was significant to move around the region to share, but most importantly hear what the issues are in each territory and country. He highlighted substantive ongoing changes which will affect the region’s population. Mr. Chen remarked, “It will affect our businesses, employees, teams, and the development of our respective countries.

Senior Specialist, Employers’ Activities International Labour Organization for the Caribbean, Ms. Anne Knowles, highlighted the main changes that will impact labour standards in the Federation.

“St. Kitts and Nevis will move to a high income category country, which will have a high impact on the way things happen, in terms of support and expectations of achievements,” she declared.

It was mentioned that such classification will change the dynamics of the general system of preference, that has been the traditional engagement of our country between European Union and the United States. She further stated, that collaboration will be done collectively as part of the Caribbean Single Market Free Trade Agreement as opposed to individual countries.

Representative of the Ministry of Labour, Permanent Secretary Mr. Elvis Newton who spoke on behalf of the Minister, Hon. Patrice Nisbett, verbalized government’s implementation of the decent work country programme initiative, as one of the priority areas of the Labour Department. He outlined areas of concern, most importantly, government’s recognition of ensuring commitment to open dialogue between government, employees and workers on national, regional, social and economic issues.

“As Tripartite Constituents, we must ensure that there is transparent, equitable and just trading, which informs not only the global community and social economic agenda, but our own on St. Kitts and Nevis,” he mentioned.

Mr. Newton voiced the importance of the Tripartite’s mandate, and its commitment. The responsibility of a member of the global socio-economic community and compliance with the obligations to being part of this global community was also considered significant. He acknowledged that great care must be taken to ensure that the established labour standards and practices are not sacrificed on the altar of expediency to attract investment.

Permanent Secretary Newton extended thanks to the International Labour Organization for its involvement in this process and reinforced government’s pledge, coupled with the support of the Tripartite Constituents to establish a comprehensive labour code for use in the Federation.

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